03/13/2004 1:00AM

Scherer maintains Midas touch

Lou Hodges Jr.
Put Me In, Eddie Martin Jr. up, wins the $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap Saturday at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS - Almost all Merrill Scherer's calls this winter at Fair Grounds have been right on. He might have run Put Me In back a touch quickly in the Feb. 7 Pan Zareta Handicap, but the filly bounced back to her best form Saturday at Fair Grounds, scoring a decisive 1 1/2-length win in the $75,000 .

Her win gave Scherer 25 victories from 75 starters at the meet, an exceptional winter. Last season, Scherer started 72 horses and won with nine of them.

"I have no idea what it is," Scherer said. "I'm scared."

Put Me In scares Scherer, too. "It's so hard to pick her out," he said. "She's so docile. She doesn't act like a racehorse. She acts like she's sick all the time."

She doesn't run like a sick horse. With her victory Saturday, Put Me In pushed her career record to seven wins from 13 starts. That's not bad for a filly who was part of a package deal, bought privately as a foal along with her pregnant dam for just $5,000. Owner Mary Lou Heleringer orchestrated that purchase, but

didn't live to see Put Me In's best victories. Heleringer was diagnosed with cancer in late December and died about two weeks later. Put Me In won the A.B. Leggio Handicap on the day of her funeral.

Now Heleringer's children cheer for Put Me In, and the filly did not let them down. As Tina Bull, the 1-2 favorite, dueled for the lead with Savorthetime, Put Me In and jockey Eddie Martin took up a perfect position stalking the pace in third. The timer malfunctioned during the race, and no fractions were available, but the leaders began to tire at the eighth pole. Martin swung Put Me In into action then, and the filly raced quickly past the leaders, running on strongly to the finish. She was timed in 1:09.96 for six furlongs, and paid $20 to win.

Savorthetime dug in to hold on for second, a head in front of Tina Bull. Vicki Vallencourt, Cashmere Miss, Distinctive Code, Allspice, and Decencia completed the order of finish. Distinctive Code was eliminated at the start: her head was turned sideways, and she broke several lengths behind the field.